Oh, look. Another stupid culture war that doesn’t create any jobs, improve public safety, or better humankind in any material way. This time the shenanigans are brought to us by a handful of board members at the Texas Center for Arts + Academics (TCAA). The nonprofit that oversees the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, a charter school, and also the Texas Boys Choir and Singing Girls of Texas now says that students’ sex at birth will determine which choir they can join. The board voted 4 to 2 to force kids to present their birth certificates before belting out a single note.
Poll any group of musicians, painters, or other artsy types, and you’ll find that creatives are overwhelmingly open-minded if not staunchly progressive. That’s the nature of creativity — it is driven by openness to new ideas and other ways of thinking.
Missing from all the general reporting leading up to the vote are mentions of one TCAA’s board chairman’s connections to a fringe voter fraud conspiracy group. This tie is important because making life difficult for vulnerable communities is part of the far right’s campaign to whiten and straighten society at large to not be wiped off the face of the Earth like the dinosaurs. No one’s voting for these fossils anymore, so instead of coming up with helpful policy, conservatives are casting doubt on elections.
Daniel Bates, an attorney and staunch supporter of County Judge Tim O’Hare, told the Fort Worth Report that the vote would not impact the composition of any charter school choir. Bates, who pushed for and voted in favor of the gender-restrictive language in school policy, has largely escaped media scrutiny even as his ties to a well-moneyed right-wing effort to upend democracy are well-documented.
Based on open records requests, Bates was partly behind a right-wing effort to portray former Democratic county judge candidate Deborah Peoples as the alleged mastermind behind what turned out to be nonexistent voter fraud. As part of some sort of lame “voter integrity” group, he wanted bodycam footage from local police which would have “proven” her involvement in the scam. The specificity with which he made the request suggests he was tipped off to the footage taken by officer Gentry Cotten, himself a close friend of Tarrant County’s Trumptard sheriff, Bill Waybourn. The footage is of Cotton prompting an incoherent and rambling felon, Charles Jackson, to discuss an alleged incident a few years earlier that involved Peoples, who was head of the Tarrant County Democratic Party at the time. In the footage, Jackson, whom Cotten continually eggs on, alleges that Peoples paid him $200 for each allegedly altered mail-in ballot.
Based on internal emails leaked by one whistleblower, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office considered the video baseless and not grounds for a criminal indictment, but that didn’t stop O’Hare’s supporters from peddling the footage to one discredited media outlet. The Dallas Express, the right-wing blog owned by billionaire O’Hare supporter Monte Bennett, ran the story online and paid to promote the post on Facebook even as Bennett’s $100,000 donation to O’Hare’s county judge campaign made the publication’s conflict of interest clear.
Bates also dodged media scrutiny for his involvement in litigating a frivolous lawsuit against former Tarrant County elections director Hyder Garcia, who recently stepped down under pressure from our horrible county judge. Filed by GOP activist Karen Wiseman (the O’Hare-backed candidate for Garcia’s vacant post), the lawsuit pivots on Wiseman’s allegation that the county did not follow state election code by properly preserving voting information. This utter nonsense was all intended to discredit Garcia and even voting in general. And no doubt score points with rednecks and other backward voters.
“As you’re aware, we’ve met before,” Bates stated to Garcia, based on a court transcript that we obtained. “I’m Dan Bates. I represent Karen Wiseman in her [lawsuit] against you, so you know who I am?”
Garcia responds in the affirmative.
What follows is a line of questioning on how votes are tabulated and stored. At one point, Bates trots out a question related to easily disprovable beliefs by fringe groups that voting devices are connected to the internet, something that would allegedly allow for outside manipulation by the so-called Deep State.
Are Tarrant County’s voting devices “capable of being connected to the internet?” Bates said.
No, Garcia responds. “I haven’t seen an ethernet port in it or a wireless card in it or a wireless configuration, and the instructional manual doesn’t have instructions on how to connect it to the internet.”
Bates pushes the issue. “Has your office made a specific analysis to determine whether [voting machines have] capability to be connected to the internet?”
No, Garcia responds.
Despite Bates’ limp attempts to push Garcia to reveal something — anything — that would fulfill the Republican Party’s wet dreams about rampant elections meddling, Garcia neutered Bates’ questions with facts and knowledge.
Wiseman dropped her suit in early May, likely to better position herself to fill Garcia’s role and because Team Bates was too chickenshit to see the bogus lawsuit through. In mid-June, the county’s Election Committee, a group of bipartisan officials, ultimately tapped Clinton Ludwig, Tarrant County’s chief deputy clerk at the time, to take over Garcia’s post.
Despite Ken Paxton’s hard-on for finding voter fraud, the indicted state attorney general currently on trial for public corruption has yet to find substantial evidence of elections meddling in the Lone Star State. The Texas Tribune found that, since 2025, the AG’s office has prosecuted only 155 individuals for election fraud, and many of them are noncitizens voting. In that same time period, Texans cast more than 8 million ballots, based on data from the secretary of state’s office, which means the percentage of prosecutable voter fraud is infinitesimal.
In Tarrant County, the real voter frauds are Republicans linked to anti-government militias and the cult of Christian Nationalism that seeks to subvert this nation’s separation of church and state. O’Hare, for example, founded Southlake Families for the purpose of installing right-wing crackpots in the school board that oversees his home of Southlake. The PAC has direct ties to the fraudulent indictments of two area school board members which were only recently lifted, likely begrudgingly as the result of our reporting on the politicization of the criminal charges that singularly served O’Hare’s disgraceful political career. DA Phil Sorrells was elected in part due to his endorsement by the indicted former president, who received a $100,000 donation from Sorrells’ stepfather. Waybourn maintains close ties with anti-government militias that attempted to overthrow democratically elected President Joe Biden after his resounding 2020 victory (“The Fraud Squad,” March 1).
Charter school board members are appointed, not elected, meaning TCAA parents cannot boot their right-wing ass-hat board director any time soon. As appalling as Bates’ transphobic and completely unnecessary push to alienate and marginalize gender-fluid minors is, the broader danger posed by him and his ilk pushing baseless voter fraud conspiracies has serious ramifications for Tarrant County and the nation. Decent-minded folks too frequently give Tea Baggers like Bates a pass by saying small-minded tyrants like him are simply afraid of change when he is really a bully getting off by exerting power over the vulnerable.
It is not without irony that parents and faculty at TCAA and area schools are trained to identify and address bullying among students even as an increasing number of school leaders exhibit the same destructive behavior.
This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for clarity and concision.